Illegal Adoptions in Ireland

Coleman Legal are working closely with individuals affected by the illegal adoptions scandal. This includes assisting our clients with requests for personal information from Tusla and initiating proceedings against the defendants in order to vindicate their rights. Coleman Legal work hard to get justice for our clients and have considerable experience in this complex area of law,

Norman Spicer –
(Senior Solicitor, Multi-Party Actions)

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(Photo: Courtesy UCD & OFM)

Illegal Adoption Redress in Ireland

For a number of years, there has been knowledge of incorrect adoption practices carried in Ireland, but individual cases has been difficult to identify, mainly due to poor, inadequate or no information on file in relation to certain adoptions.

Ms. Theresa Tinggal, who founded Illegally Adopted Ireland nine years ago, believes that the number of people who were registered as the birth children of their adopted parents could “run into thousands”.

In 2013, backed by Deputy Clare Daly, Adoption Rights Now, Adoption Rights Alliance and Adopted Illegally Ireland, the groups called for an independent inquiry into the practice of illegal adoptions in Ireland by a dedicated team, including members of An Garda Síochána, to look for files, medical records and anything else that could help create a proper register for illegally adopted children and their birth mothers.

To speak with one of our experienced solicitors call  1800 844 104 (Free Phone) or complete our online enquiry form.

Investigation into History of Illegal Adoptions in Ireland

The issue of illegal adoptions in Ireland has again come to the fore following the publication of the report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes in January.

Previously in 2018, the Government had promised to take action in the cases of 126 babies who were illegally registered on their birth certificates as if they were the natural children of their adoptive parents. On Wednesday the 3rd of March RTE broadcast, RTE Investigates: Ireland’s Illegal Adoptions.

The documentary reported on the history of illegal adoptions in Ireland and those that facilitated the practice. The programme featured interviews with numerous people who had only become aware of the circumstances of their illegal adoptions in recent years.

It was the transferring of files to TUSLA from St Patrick’s Guild Catholic Adoption Society, which had been run by the Religious Sisters of Charity, that brought to light the extent of the illegal adoptions. TUSLA contacted those that had been illegally adopted. Some of the people contacted were not even aware that they were not the biological children of their parents and many were advanced in years when they became aware.

Among these people was Brian Webster who received a letter from TUSLA on the cusp of his 60th birthday. In speaking to RTE Investigates Brian told how prior to receiving the letter he was unaware he had been adopted.

Irish children were not just illegally provided to Irish families there were also provided to families in the United States. In June 1954, the American Embassy in Dublin brought to the attention of the Irish Authorities what it believed to be criminal activities involving falsification of birth records. Numerous American women had claimed to have given birth in Dublin and sought to have their babies added to their passports. The practice of placing Irish babies abroad was made illegal by the 1952 Adoption Act.

The 1952 Adoption Act had also made it illegal for an agency to receive money for anything other than maintenance of the children in its care. However, following on from documents seen by the RTE Investigates team it appears that some women were charged for the care of their babies despite the (illegal) adoption having already taken place. One such case was that of Neil Dargan, who spoke to RTE Investigates, he had been illegally adopted within 10 days of his birth however, his birth mother paid the fee for her sons maintenance to St Patrick’s Guild for a further three months at their insistence.

In the course of its research, RTE Investigates discovered that numerous powerful and prominent members of Irish society had been involved in the facilitating of illegal adoptions. These individuals included Professor Eamonn de Valera Jr who was at the time a Consultant Gynaecologist at Holles St National Maternity Hospital. Professor de Valera in some cases even set up antenatal appointments for women who were not pregnant to facilitate the illegal adoptions. This was being done almost a decade after the 1952 Adoption Act.

Many of the people that have been contacted by TUSLA have attempted to obtain information regarding their births and subsequent adoptions. However, the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU has greatly frustrated their attempts despite the Regulation being created to protect and give access to personal data. GDPR is being given as a reason has to why the information cannot be shared. Dr Maeve O’ Rourke speaking to RTE Investigates stated “There’s no justification for telling somebody that they are adopted, then turning around and saying I can tell you that, but I can’t tell you who you are. That is not the proper interpretation of GDPR, we have not seen where that is coming from”.

In a statement to RTE Investigates, TUSLA said the legislation as it stands in Ireland ,only permits it “to share personal information with those affected that relates directly to them”. Assurances have been given by Roderic O’ Gorman the current Minster for Children that legislation “to allow access to birth information, including birth certificates, be prepared by end March/early April”.

Tusla Investigation 

Tusla, The National Child and Family Agency, have formed a team of social practitioners to investigate and act upon the matter.

The matter has come to the fore currently as a result of publicity surrounding the alleged mismanagement of the registry from one of the adoption societies at the time, St Patrick’s Guild in conjunction with the Sisters of Charity religious order, where only a section on the index cards was indicative of adoption at birth.

Tusla Under Investigation for Illegal Adoption Source_Rape Crisis Network Ireland

Investigation into St. Patrick’s Guild Adoption Files from 1946 to 1959

The investigation is carried on files dating as far as 1946 up to 1959 whereby there is no adoption records before the adoption authority, of these 126 cases more than half have are unaware of their true birth circumstances.

It is now created an atmosphere of uncertainty amongst adoption agencies in the country, which will be now due to be investigated by the dedicated teams to establish whether the illegal practice of adoptive registries happened elsewhere.

Source: RTE.IE

Minister for Justice Charlie Flannagan commented “it is highly likely” that other adoptive agencies have engaged in illegal adoption practices and said

“I would find extraordinary if only one agency was engaged in these practices.”

The Adoption Rights Alliance states:

“These are not ‘incorrect registrations’, they’re illegal adoptions.  Describing them as such was providing a loophole for those private adoption facilitators.”

This process will be overseen and quality-assured by an Independent Reviewer, Ms Marion Reynolds, who is a former Deputy Director of Social Services in Northern Ireland.

Recent News & Updates

Mother and Baby Homes report described as unfair, untruthful and inaccurate

The Dáil has been told that the recently published Mother and Baby Homes report should be repudiated since it is not valid or accurate. The Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, and the leader of the Labour...

Mother and Baby Homes report criticised by survivors, public figures

Historian of Tuam Catherine Corless has criticised the failure of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes fully to take into account the views and evidence of survivors. Calling...

Former Mother and Baby Home Residents Bring High Court Challenges Against Report of the Commission of Investigation

A number of women including Ms Philomena Lee have brought High Court challenges with a view to quashing elements of the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes....

Women Illegally Adopted Seeks Expansion of Investigation

Ms Theresa Hiney Tingal discovered she was illegally adopted, and her birth certificate falsified at the age of 48. It was through freedom of information requests that Ms Hiney Tingal finally got a...

High Court Rules Illegal Adoption Cases to be Assessed for Damages Only

As a result of High Court rulings when at least six illegal adoption cases against St Patrick’s Guild Adoption Society go to trial it will be solely for assessment of damages. These orders were made...

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Our dedicated team has collective experience of over 100 years in personal injury claims and we are ready to advise and assist you through your legal journey.

If you are affected by these issues contact us for a consultation and we will be happy to advise you on what steps we can take to assist you. please fill-out this ‘Case Evaluation Form’ and one of our experienced Solicitor at Coleman Legal will contact you. 


Norman spicer

Senior Solicitor 
Abuse Law Team


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